Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: June 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wizard World Wrap

Yeah, well. Whatever.

I had a lot going this weekend, and I wasn't able to focus as much on the Wizard World comics convention as I have in years past. I was there for roughly the last half hour on Thursday, nothing on Friday, about two hours on Saturday, and a full three hours on Sunday. Each of these times were at the end of the day--attendance seemed down to me from last year, but the times I was there may not have been the best for an accurate reading. My own enthusiasm may have been low, as well, and that's not fair to blame on the show, either (though a really good show can generate its own enthusiasm). I didn't make it all the way around the show floor; I saw most of the exhibit area, but I didn't stop at all the booths I should have; I only saw some of the dealer floor; and I hung at a couple of artist tables. Maybe there was a lot of fascinating merchandise or creative material to be found, but nothing reached out to me that I desperately needed to buy. I did wander by the Admiral Theater booth just to see what kind of display a strip club would set up at a comics show, but if you didn't already know that's what you were looking at, there was nothing overly obvious to tip you off. Todd has a picture of the booth, and Rich has a snap of one of the girls "manning" the booth. I saw more skin on some of the attendees in costume.

Meanwhile, it seems that Dustin had a more profitable experience at the con.

UPDATE--In fact, Dustin had an even better con than that suggested. Here's another link I couldn't find last night.

Looming on the Horizon

Just a couple of quick links tonight. Seymour Hersh is back with more discussion about Iran (I last wrote about Hersh on this subject here). U.S. activities seem to be ticking up, and the implication of this is pretty clear. Crooks and Liars has video of Hersh discussing this on CNN's Late Edition.

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum brings up the subject and mentions a panel on this very issue going on this week at Mother Jones. A variety of Mid-East experts will be interacting with each other and with readers starting on Monday. The site already has their preliminary answers to the question: "How likely is a scenario in which the US or Israel strikes Iran before Bush leaves office? (Or is the Left falling for the hawks' propaganda?)"

There are certainly a lot of ins and outs on the issue, but I can't help but notice that this is an administration with a history of taking more extreme positions than the common wisdom assumes is possible. I also wonder if Dick Cheney has to somehow reassert his influence after what's been reported as his setback on the issue of North Korean nuclear policy.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Music

It's that time of year again, your chance to gather in a field with tens of thousands of your closest friends to hear large numbers of bands. American festivals always start early, and we've already had 2008's Coachella and Bonaroo. This weekend is the biggest British one, Glastonbury, which features everybody from Jay-Z to the Gossip, the Raconteurs to Massive Attack, Leonard Cohen to the Futureheads, the National to Jimmy Cliff, My Morning Jacket to Gilbert O'Sullivan, John Cale to Hit Chip, Joan Baez to Vampire Weekend, Lupe Fiasco to the Men They Couldn't Hang, Neil Diamond to Spiritualized, and more than 100 others. I'm sure you get the idea. To celebrate Glastonbury, earlier this week The Guardian features several downloads by bands such as CSS, Foals, and Glasvegas that can be combined for one big festivals CD (it comes with artwork and everything).

Meanwhile, in Chicago, we've got Pitchfork and Lollapaloooza. Together, they sort of vaguely hit the same kind of eclecticism.

On a side note, Edwyn Collins made a triumphant appearance at Glastonbury on Friday night, recovering to a large extent from a brain aneurysm and brain surgery in 2005. He didn't play "The Campaign for Real Rock," but he included a number of solo and Orange Juice faves as well as his new single, "Home Again." Here's another quick review.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Content? What Content?

This has been a later night than I expected, not least because the city is closing in one three full weeks since it started to refurbish or reconstruct or whatever it's doing in our alley. It's been almost 21 days since we were able to access our garage, having to cruise a neighborhood already oversaturated with cars in the hopes of finding a space along the curb long enough to accommodate our Jetta. In real terms, this means that we're actually getting into our house about 20 or 30 minutes after we arrive home.

Tonight was good, though, because we've got family and friends in town for the weekend, and we went to see a handful of iconic Chicago sights: Second City, Twin Anchors for dinner, and Old Town Ale House for after dinner. Sure, it was a cliche-filled evening, but a fun one. The only thing that might've made the evening better was a stop to see Blondie playing at the zoo.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Short Reprieve

I have way too much to try to fit in this weekend, so I'm quickly going to be on my way to bed to do something to try to stay fresh. In the meantime, I'll pass along some good news on the FISA bill (no, I just can't let it go, can I?).

No, Barack Obama hasn't changed his mind. He still supports it. But the final vote on the bill has been delayed until after the July 4 recess. Although the Fourth of July commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence rather than the writing of the Constitution, it's not a bad time to pay attention to the details of patriotic history and recall just what the Constitution has meant to us over the years. This is an opportunity to remind our senators just how important freedom for ourselves and from tyranny--no matter who gets cast in the role of the tyrant--can be. Please use the time between now and July 8 to get in touch with your senators (even if they might be running for president, like one of mine is) and clarify what is acceptable and what is not. Remind them that we like our Fourth Amendment and would rather see it respected than eviscerated. If enough of us do, maybe enough senators will realize the error of their ways and change their position (so I like to dream, so what?).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quick Hits

Despite the efforts of Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold, the Senate passed a major procedural vote that got us one step closer to the new FISA bill being accepted. Barack Obama wasn't there to take part in the cote, but it wouldn't have mattered. Back in November, he staked out a position on surveillance and terrorism:

We are not a nation that undermines our civil liberties. We are not a nation that wiretaps without warrants.

Apparently, we will be soon. Obama no longer stands behind that position. He tried to explain why, but to my ears, all he's really saying is that terrorists are scary, and what's the problem in giving up a few civil liberties if it makes us more secure. The full vote on the bill (when it's expected to pass) is likely to come soon.

Meanwhile, in the Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain Department, the Guardian has the scoop on what's on Obama's iPod (via Matthew Yglesias). He's got old standbys such as Dylan and Springsteen, but he tempers them with Ludacris and Jay-Z. During the '70s, he said, his true musical hero was Stevie Wonder. I don't suppose that means we'll find him at Saturday night's free Stevie Wonder gig at the Taste of Chicago.

For the second time in two days, Chris Matthews has misspoken when referring to Osama bin Laden. Yeah, you know what he said instead. The first time he caught himself, but today, he breezed right over it without noticing. Maybe he and his fellow pundits should just start referring to "bin Laden" rather than trying to dis him by using his first name.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Things Looking Up?

I hadn't planned to write anything more about FISA, but earlier today, Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold announced:

We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

In plainer language, that appears to mean filibuster. The Huffington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also announced that he'll vote against the bill. Is there a little bit of reassurance we can get from that? Susan Duclos at says it won't and explains why. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Maybe It's Right to Be Nervous Now

Just because I finished one work project with a massive deadline doesn't mean there aren't others to step into the breach.

I'm finding that the whole Democratic capitulation on FISA is distressing me more than I realized. Kevin Drum a couple of days ago had a nice, readable, easily digestible explanation of what's wrong with the bill beyond telecom immunity. And over the weekend, Atrios provided a timely reminder that just because some in Congress gave a Republican president a pass over potentially impeachable offences doesn't mean that a Democratic president can expect the same treatment.

Apropos of nothing, it occurred to me tonight that Magazine is the perfect band for our times, when even a constitutional scholar is willing to make an end run around the Fourth Amendment in the name of fear and getting elected. I'm not sure whether he's accepting the fear as legitimate or just pandering to it. Shot by both sides, indeed. Howard Devoto's odd mix of paranoia and disbelief may be exactly what the zeitgeist orders 30 years after the band's debut. The conspiracy of silence ought to revolutionise my thought.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

Word has come through this evening that George Carlin, a wondrously iconoclastic comedian, died earlier today of heart failure. He's been at this for a long time, starting out almost 50 years ago as part of a comedy duo with Jack Burns. I once saw an album they did in a used record store and was surprised to see a clean-cut Carlin in a jacket and tie. He later went heavily into counter-culture style, which is what I remember. I'm not sure if I first became aware of him by seeing the FM & AM or the Class Clown album, but it was that hippy persona that stuck with me. He didn't seem to be afraid to go after anyone or anything, but he also had a lot of insightful material about language and how it worked. His most famous and significant routine, which went to the Supreme Court, combined both of those aspects of his work. Rather than go on at any length, I'll just supply a link to that routine on YouTube to enjoy it yourself. (Although I should point out that, as you might guess, it's not particularly work safe.) And after you watch that, hang around in YouTube a while longer, clicking on as much of the other Carlin material as you have time for.

Goodbye, George. We'll miss your cynicism and your courage.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Couple of Specifics

Just for the record, here's the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That's the amendment targeted by the FISA overhaul supported on a bipartisan basis in Congress, including by both major presidential candidates. For more details, the ACLU is always a good place to start. Here's a press release from Thursday, before the House voted to accept the new proposal.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Planned Demolition

It's clear by now that the revised FISA bill that included telecom immunity was not a cave-in by the Democrats as much as it was a planned demolition. It was clear that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was behind it from the beginning, but it wasn't initially as obvious that everybody else was so much in the bag. Now that it's been approved by the House, more people have weighed in, and the whole thing now looks as though it was never in doubt. (Actually, the common wisdom all along had little doubt that it would pass, but some of us are, well, doubters). As Glenn Greenwald pointed out on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi was pretty much unintelligible in discussing the bill. She ended up supporting it. But the true nail in the coffin came from Obama, who released a statement to the effect that the world is a scary place, and giving the president extraordinary powers to fight the bad guys is the least we can do. It's hard to say whether or not the fact that the next president would also have these extraordinary powers to go outside of the Constitution swayed his thinking at all. He did say that he'd see about getting the immunity out of there, but if he can't, he'll vote for it anyway. Harry Reid--the man, don't forget, who controls the Senate's agenda, has already made his head fake to the constituency to make us think that he's going to do something, but I think the writing is on the wall. "I’m going to try real hard to have a separate vote on immunity." He's going to try real hard. (Did I mention that Reid controls the Senate agenda?.) But unfortunately, no matter how hard he tries, it may still be beyond his reach: "Probably we can’t take that out of the bill, but I’m going to try." That's certainly good of him. Digby wonders if this is Obama's Sista Soldja opportunity to show that he's not indebted to any one person. She just may be on to something.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Spelunking Is Dangerous

I avert my attention for two days, and what happens? The Democrats fall back on their old, familiar ways and act like they're in New York in 1941 (that's for my sister-in-law). Calling it a "cave-in" far understates what the Democratic Congress has done on the FISA bill. Democratic Congressional leaders call it a "compromise," but Russ Feingold says it's a "capitulation," and Glenn Greenwald is even more blunt, labeling it "corrupt and repugnant." He presents a nice overview, if you want details. As you might guess from such a complete collapse, it gives the telecoms all the immunity they want. Oh, sure, they have to jump through a couple of hoops to get it, but I'm not sure there's any realistic way that a random telecom would be denied immunity. All they have to do is prove that the President told them it was OK to spy on their customers, and the court will have no choice but to dismiss any outstanding legal action against them. The "I was only following orders" defense hasn't always been a successful one, but it looks like Congress is about to enshrine it into law for the time being.

To make clear, the situation is not that Democrats got out-maneuvered by George Bush and his canny Republicans. Nope, they just sort of put this deal together themselves. The traditional definition of compromise involves two (or more) sides who give in on some points to get what they want on others. But, oddly enough, the Republicans don't seem to have given anything up. Senator Kit Bond, identified in the New York Times as the leader of the Republican negotiators, seemed surprised at his good fortune: "I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get." Well, sure. Bush is a lame duck, tanking further and further in the polls. I'd figure he's got just about zero negotiating leverage, but look at this--they got pretty much everything they wanted at no cast at all. Needless to say, the White House wasted absolutely no time in jumping on to the deal.

It looks like the House may vote on Friday, with the Senate falling into line next week. Go to Stop the Spying to find out where your representative stands. With that information, you know what to do.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another Lame Post

I hate reading these kinds of posts on other people's blogs, so feel free to go right ahead and hate this one, if you like. I'm punting again. We got close enough to our deadline today that we can call it a victory, so everything's going to be fine. However, I'm absolutely exhausted, and I'm up way past where my bedtime should've been tonight (I'm thinking somewhere about 7:30 would've been nice).

Thanks to charlesofcamden making an effort to add some actual content to this blog today. It looks like somebody's trying to make sure that Chicago once again has an actual pro hockey team in town. That would be nice for a change.

So will tomorrow be different. Here's hoping so. We've got a couple more i's to dot and t's to cross, but I'll be able to actually get on to the next thing at work (which will be another tight deadline to meet, but nowhere near as intensive as this last one). Then maybe I'll be able to once again take a look around me and see if, by chance, there's anything going on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is It Time for Another Post Already?

I'm not breaking my commitment to post at least something up here every day, but I've got to admit that right now, I've got nothing. That massive, gigantic deadline I've mentioned from time to time that I've been working at for a couple of months is all coming to a head tomorrow (what am I kidding? It's well past midnight--today), and it's taken over pretty much all my attention and energy over the past couple of days (as opposed to having just taken over most of my energy and attention since sometime in April). I haven't even been keeping up with the news blogs today, so I have no idea if something dramatic's taken place or if we're just sort of in that early summer holding pattern. If there's anything I need to know, I'm sure I'll hear it. In the meantime, about half an hour ago my contacts announced that they no longer want to be in my eyes, so I'd better go do something about that. I hope that by the next time I write anything here that deadline and its accompanying project (or most of it, anyway) will be in my rearview mirror.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

History Will Judge

Guess who's concerned about his legacy? Six years after Bush said, "I truly am not that concerned about [Osama bin Laden]," (six years!), now that he's leaving office, it's become vitally important to catch the terrorist (and remember, either dead or alive is fine). Apparently he doesn't want to undermine the surge, so he's not asking American troops to go out and get bin Laden--he wants it to use British special forces, including the Special Boat Service (I was going to do a joke about Special Beat Service, but I couldn't find a good enough image of the album so that you could tell what was going on in it if you didn't already know.)

Well, good luck to him, I guess. I suppose it's a worthy cause. Of course, it's been a worthy cause for quite some time, now. I'm curious how soon it'll be before we discover that this is just a distraction for something else. What, me cynical? Where'd you get that idea?

Monday, June 16, 2008

A More Aggressive Press Corps?

We've discovered over the last couple of weeks that requests for discussion get little or no response, so here's a question to think about silently to yourselves for a few moments. This sort of builds on what I was thinking about last night. Is it overreaching for us to expect the press to be inquisitive, to look into things, or should they be supportive of the people they scrutinize (if, indeed, they scrutinize anyone)? Should a forum like, oh, let's say Meet the Press, for want of a better example, be a place where politicians should be pressed for answers and clarifications, or should it be a place where they can be loved?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Something to Chew On

Just a quick couple of questions tonight. I've got 350 pages to read for work this weekend, so I haven't had time (or energy) to come up with very much depth. But I was having a conversation earlier today that I thought I'd toss out to see what anyone else made of it.

If the full field of journalism is a set, how large is the subset of investigative journalism? What other subsets are there? In particular, how does this relate to political journalism?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's Not Dead Yet

Habeas corpus, that is. As much as the Bush administration has worked to undermine it, as much as the Senate was willing to go along with the administration, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the prisoners at Guantanamo have inalienable writes from which they can't, y'know, be alienated. Justice Kennedy proved that he hasn't yet succumbed to the dark side, writing for the majority: "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." Yeah, I guess. I'm extremely concerned about the state of Constitutional understanding in this country, though. I've read more than a couple of statements in the mainstream press assuring readers that, although the detainees do indeed have rights, that doesn't mean that they'll be released any time soon. No, I guess they wouldn't. As I've always been taught, prisoners (and all of us, actually), have the right to be treated fairly. If criminals are found guilty after receiving a fair trial, well, then they're still guilty, and they receive their punishment. A new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that the number of people in the American justice system is at a new high. It hardly seems like Constitutional rights such as habeas corpus are letting criminals run wild within the system.

It seems, though, that Antonin Scalia is quite alarmed by his some of his colleagues' dependence on Constitutional values. Perhaps "original intent" has been expanded to include the intent of regimes that existed before the Constitution was written. "We, the people of the United States," did not "ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America" just to suspend it when we get scared. I'm not sure how taking the Constitution at its word, that "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it," can really be considered "overreaching," as he accused the other justices of doing, but I guess legal geniuses think differently than you or I.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Getting the Word Out

Barack Obama has a new Web site up dedicated to clearing up misinformation about him, particularly misinformation that's been spread maliciously. There are already four categories up at Fight the Smear, addressing whether or not Obama will say the Pledge of Allegiance (he will, and they've got tape of him leading it--hand over his heart--in the Senate), whether he's a secret Muslim (nope), whether he's a natural-born citizen (he provides his birth certificate to prove he is), and whether there's a tape of Michelle referring to "Whitey" in the pulpit of Trinity United Church (there's not, and there can't be, because such an incident never happened). We'll see how effective this is. On the surface, it seems like a good use of the Internet to get Obama's message out and to set the record straight. The site is set up to send information and links out by e-mail. I already sent an e-mail to the most recent person who raised the issue of Obama's Muslim upbringing with me. We'll see if there's any fallout.

Earlier today, Kevin Drum made an unfortunate point. The way we can expect this campaign to go, unless they start some sort of organization on the smears site, it's just going to get longer and longer, and users will have to scroll and scroll and scroll to find the particular smear they're looking for.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Does the Office Age the Man?

Or is it just time? It's an old cliche that the office of the presidency really ages its occupants. Now that we're coming up to the end of Bush's second term, we'll see more and more of the comparisons between how he looked when he started and now. In fact, here's one that takes a look at all the presidents elected twice in the last hundred years (it has Nixon, who didn't serve his full two, but it doesn't have Truman, who was only elected once, but served more than two years longer than Nixon did--for that matter, Teddy Roosevelt was only elected once but served longer than Nixon, too, but he started more than a hundred years ago, so maybe he doesn't count).

The amount that a president ages in office is likely to be discussed even more avidly this time around because McCain will be 72 by the time the election comes around, so he'd leave office at 80 if he served two terms. But then I started to think about McCain when he was 63 and running against Bush in the 2000 primaries. He looks like he's aged more since then as Bush has, and he wasn't even president! Maybe it comes down to the fact that it's eight years later. How much older do you look than you did during the 2000 election. Quite frankly, I'm not looking so great, and I wasn't president, either (although I did live through the Bush administration). So, although I've got to admit that the presidency without a doubt has far, far more stress than I want to experience, I think we've got to admit that eight years can age you all by itself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Don't Ask . . .

It's a much later evening than I intended, and once again, it's work related. No, it's not that crushing deadline (which has been extended--have I mentioned that? It's a double-edged sword, acknowledgment that I wasn't ever going to actually meet it, but stretching out the time before I can be finally rid of the project) but something else altogether. Everything turned out OK (at least, it has so far), but my attention was completely hijacked, so I'm essentially contentless tonight. Things have to get better soon--that's a rule of some sort, isn't it?

In the meantime, here are a couple of links to tide you over. Stand up for Joe Lieberman, and he'll repay you as he sees fit; here's a round up of terrorist fist jabs; and Dr. Who stops by for a very special This Modern World.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tornado Etiquette

I've been having trouble getting into Blogger tonight, so I'll keep this fairly quick. I've just got a question that may provide an opening for a public service announcement (but no guitar--sorry).

The Midwest was hit by storms and tornados this weekend, and obviously, it was all over the news. It seems like there are more tornados that there have ever been, but I suspect the real truth is that pretty much the same number of people who always encountered tornados are confronting them today, but not the vast majority of them have camera phones.

Anyway, there was one video in which a car passed the cameraperson and then, as if they just noticed the tornado they were driving toward, they stopped and started to back up. The newsreaders laughed a bit about that, but they never suggested what that driver should've done. If you're in a car and a tornado is bearing down on you, what are you supposed to do? Turning around isn't going to help much, but that's about your only choice, isn't it? Do you get out of the car and start looking for the closest shelter? Are people really going to let you in to their basement for protection? There must be a correct answer, though, or it seems like tornados would be causing a larger number of fatalities. Any storm chasers out there? Now's your time to weigh in.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Bad with the Good

Only one taker for the discussion on race I suggested a couple of days ago, huh? Well, I'm not really that surprised. It's an extremely loaded subject, and it's not like talking about it on this blog is going to keep it from festering throughout the rest of the campaign. For more thoughts on the matter, though, I'd suggest taking a look at what Christy Hardin Smith had to say over at Firedoglake. She's a lawyer in West Virginia, so she's closer to the action where race may make a difference. Here's her opener:

Barack Obama doesn't have to win over most progressives -- a lot of them are already supporting him or will over McCain. What he has to win are folks like the people in our local Democratic group -- the people we rely on here in WV to make those GOTV calls, organize rides to the polls and strong-arm their buddies at the VFW and the union hall and the workplace and at church to vote for Obama over McCain.

They are comfortable with John McCain. They know him well from all his years of public service. They may not like all of his policies, but they at least think they know what they are getting with him. It was the same for them with Hillary Clinton -- who they knew quite well from all of her time as First Lady and in the public spotlight since then.

They don't feel comfortable with Obama just yet -- he has not closed the deal with them. Not just with women, but also with a lot of men here and in PA, OH, FL, MI, and any number of other states.

On the other hand, Sunday's New York Times outlines some of the Obama strategy that makes me optimistic.

Senator Barack Obama's general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states — from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana — as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said.

On Monday, Mr. Obama will travel to North Carolina — a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years — to start a two-week tour of speeches, town hall forums and other appearances intended to highlight differences with Mr. McCain on the economy. From there, he heads to Missouri, which last voted for a Democrat in 1996. His first campaign swing after securing the Democratic presidential nomination last week was to Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.

From what we've seen, Obama is a smart campaigner and an effective campaigner (not necessarily the same thing). I have to admit that I'm looking forward to see what he's got up his sleeve.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hillary Follows Through

As promised, Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race today and endorsed Obama. She pretty much did it the way she needed to do it, and as far as I've seen, her speech has been well received. Emotions have gotten high over the past few months, and in the heat of the moment, it's been fairly easy to forget how historic her candidacy has been. There have been women candidates before (from both parties), but they've never had a chance at the actual nomination, so even if they've had (and continued to have) serious politicians careers, they were never taken seriously as presidential contenders. That's something that can't be said about Hillary Clinton. And that's a significant barrier to have out of the way. The next women who run for president won't have to prove that their gender doesn't negate their viability. For my money, some of the best parts of her speech spoke directly to this reality:

You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all of the way, especially the young people who put so much into this campaign, it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours.

I don't know how long it will be up, but on his Web page at the moment, Obama has a nice tribute to her. If that's gone when you read this, here's a link to the statement he e-mailed in response to Hillary's endorsement.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Obama's Obstacle

Earlier today, there was a comment to another post that raises an interest that's going to be bubbling along throughout this election, so we might as well raise it early and air it out. How much will race play a factor in the presidential race? Will we all wake up on November 5 and discover that, contrary to their claims, a large enough number of people won't be able to pull the lever for an African American candidate that it affects the outcome?

I was involved in a different online conversation about this the other day, and I'll start by echoing my argument then. I won't for a minute suggest that there aren't such people out there. But how strong were they in the Democratic column to begin with? Did they vote for Gore and Kerry, or did Bush win them over? If they just can't bring themselves to vote for an African American candidate, was it ever realistic to expect that they'd vote for a female commander in chief? Has this election basically been a gimme for McCain since the end of January when Edwards, the last white male left in the Democratic field, withdrew? But then again, are these secret racists conservative enough that even John Edwards was outside of their comfort zone?

Regardless of the answers to any of these questions, we also have to consider where these people actually live. There's been a lot of talk about Appalachia, but to some extent, I have to wonder if it's not overblown to some degree. Take a look at the phrasing from this sentence from Newsweek:

But Appalachia is a big place, encompassing 13 states: southwestern New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, western Maryland, western Virginia, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, western North and South Carolina, and northern Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Indulge me in this quick geography lesson, but southwestern New York is not a state encompassed by Appalachia. Appalachia extends through parts of a number of eastern states, but it only actually "defines" one or two. For the sake of argument, let's say Obama does have a problem in Appalachia. That may lose him some votes in parts of New York, but the rest of the state is not going to follow the lead of its Appalachian counties. Most of the state of Ohio is not going to wait until it see where its Appalachian areas are coming down. And in Alabama, Obama's primary problem isn't going to be the Appalachian areas--it's going to be all the Republicans there!

I don't mean to suggest that Obama will breeze to victory, but the economy and the war in Iraq both spell trouble for a generic Republican. Obama's run a very canny campaign to get him to where he is, and I see no indication that he's getting ready to start letting it slide. I do find it frustrating, though, to run into this pessimism that because of his race, Obama can't even compete. One of the participants in the previous conversation stated flat out, "Obama CANNOT win." Today's comment in the other post just seemed to take it as a fait accompli that there can be no other result than a McCain presidency. In fact, there's a lot that can be done to prevent such an eventuality. Let's direct our energies in that direction rather than doing an impression of the current Congress and just rolling over for the Republicans.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Twilight of the Bushies

I'm in one of those moods tonight, and I started writing a whiny, complaining post, but even I got tired of that before I was finished. So what I've got for you instead is a nice, paranoid post. There's a lot of optimism among Democrats in the last couple of days, but we need to remember where we stand now. Things look good for the fall, but until then, we've got another six months or more of the Bush administration. As Bush's poll numbers go down (he's hit 25 percent approval, a point below Jimmy Carter at his lowest [though still above Truman and Nixon], with 67 percent disapproving), he's got less and less to lose. He's never struck me as someone who'd fade quietly into the sunset, even if he does feign to be a cowboy. I've always had a nagging fear that he'd want to do something or another to prove that he's still the president, damn it! Apparently I'm not the only one. Think Progress has a couple of stories today featuring people who are in a better position to know than I am. Right wing academic Daniel Pipes suggested that Bush will bomb Iran if Democrats win the White House. Of course, it's hard to tell how much this is informed speculation and how much is Pipes trying to influence the possibility, it's not a point of view that can be dismissed as unimportant. And, in timing that might get you thinking about an intentional effort if you tend to be suspicious that way, Rush Limbaugh was talking about Bush attacking Iran before his term is up, as well. As we've come to know, there's nothing this administration does that's without its political component. In view of that, would a strike against Iran strengthen or weaken McCain's chances in November. If the answer is "weaken him," does that mean it's more likely to happen after the election? Don't forget, with only about a month and a half left in his presidency, the original Bush sent troops into Somalia, leaving it to Bill Clinton to extract them (which he hadn't done entirely before the disastrous battle in Mogadishu depicted in Blackhawk Down). The new Bush has made a conscious effort to pull away from his father's tendencies as president, but will this one just be too tempting not to emulate?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Endgame

Now, here's good news. There seems to be some sort of end planned for the Hillary campaign. I've been annoyed by Hillary and her campaign from time to time, but for the most part, I've got no problem. Had she won the nomination, I could've gotten behind her candidacy. The issue I had with last night's non-concession concession speech is that it gets in the way of party unity. If we're going to "heal the party," it's kind of hard to do that while the party's remaining divided. I suspect that's a lot of what Hillary heard today as she was considering her future. Hilary Rosen wrote that Clinton's response last night "left her supporters empty, Obama's angry, and party leaders trashing her." Rahm Emanuel, who worked as part of the Clinton administration, came out in support of Obama after charting a middle road throughout the primaries. And New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, who's been a staunch Clinton superdelegate all along, probably summed up the issue better than anybody.

We pledged to support her to the end. Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.

Now we know when the end is. And that's good for everybody.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Presumptive Nominee . . . Although . . .

We made it to the end of the line. With a mix of superdelegates and delegates won during the last two primaries, Barack Obama surpassed the 2,118 threshold, winning enough to lay claim to the Democratic nomination. Rumors swirled around the Clinton campaign about what Hillary's next move would be. As suggested in this space last night, Hillary basically punted: "I will be making no decisions tonight." No, of course not. That put the lie to Terry McCauliff's statement that Hillary would concede once Obama had the numbers. Of course, perhaps he'd already put the lie to that himself, when he introduced her tonight as "the next president of the United States." She claims that whatever her decision is, it will be influenced by her supporters, who were encouraged to go to her Web page to share their thoughts. As the only place to write and send anything on the site at this point is prefaced with:

Be One of 18 Million--Stand With Hillary; I'm with you, Hillary, and I'm proud of everything we're fighting for

I can't say that I expect her to receive too many notes suggesting she put aside her own ambition for the good of the party.

Some of Hillary's previously committed delegates jumped over to Obama today, and I can only assume that those numbers will grow in the next few days. Hillary's suggested that she'd magnanimously accept the VP slot if Obama offered it to her, but the longer she soldiers on, the more irrelevant she'll become, and the less likely she'll be given an opportunity to bite on such a possibility. Of course, McCain hasn't chosen a running mate yet, either. The Bush-McCain campaign (I know, Bush isn't running for anything, but using that description seems to annoy McCain, so why not?) is already using one of her anti-Obama, pro-McCain statements in its advertising. Could McCain-Clinton be the real way to go?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Ponderance

That work deadline I've got that just won't quit still hasn't quit. That's taking most of my attention at the moment, but at the very least I feel I should pass along the latest Hillary Clinton koan.

Tomorrow (or today, actually, I guess) are the final primaries of the season, South Dakota and Montana. There ain't no more delegates after that, just superdelegates. Hillary's announced a big do tomorrow evening in New York to close out the primary season. Does this mean she's going to thank everyone who's worked so hard for her and call it a day? Or is she planning to announce Presidential Campaign Phase II: The Quest for Obama's Superdelegates? All will be revealed on Tuesday night. (Or not--having watched the Clinton campaign operate, I think it's just as likely that we'll be teased along a bit farther, without any firm answer one way or another.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Don't Look in Your Closet!

This is a weird little story. A single guy who lived alone started noticing that the food in his refrigerator was going missing. That's a weird theft, for someone to break into his apartment just to get some food and not take anything else. He's a pretty tech-oriented guy, so he installs some cameras in the apartment to send video to his cell phone if anything happened. Something did--there was somebody moving around inside there when he was out. The next step, obviously, is to call the cops. So they go to investigate, but there's no sign of forced entry. Now this is getting interesting. Just as there's no forced entry, there's no evidence that anybody's left, either, so they start checking around to see if the culprit is still inside. And wouldn't you know it, she is! In fact, she never left. She lives there. No, I didn't mislead you at the top of this post--he lived alone, or at least, he thought he did. But he had a squatter who's bee living in his closet for the previous year. She had a little mattress in there, and she sometimes sneaked food from the refrigerator when she was hungry. The article points out that she'd even shower--well, I hope so, if she was living there for a year. Even if you're not doing much of anything, you're going to get awfully grimy after a year.

There are a couple of things I want to point out about this article. First off, while this is a very weird story, does it seem to be a little less weird when you find out it happened in Japan? Maybe not less weird, necessarily, but not quite as unexpected? And second, this particular article includes a great feature. It's just an AP feed on Yahoo News, so there's nothing special about it, but accompanying the story is a file photo of a closet. No, it's not the closet the woman has been living in, it's just a generic closet with a guy's clothes in it, in case you don't happen to remember what one looks like. This way, we can all be sure we're on the same page.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Are We Almost Done, Then?

The Rules and Bylaws Committee (that's the RBC you've probably been hearing about) of the Democratic National Committee met today to work out some sort of compromise for Florida and Michigan. What they arrived at seems to have made the Florida and Michigan delegations happy, the Obama camp seems to have something it can live with, and the Hillary people are hugely upset. Delegates from both states will get half a vote each. Florida got a breakdown that pretty much matches the vote, but Michigan was a bit weirder. Obama wasn't on the ballot (because earlier on, the Democratic National Committee disallowed the Michigan premature primary, and several candidates--not Hillary, though--withdrew their names), so, obviously, he got no votes. Hillary got a lot of votes there. Hillary didn't want to give up her votes, however Stalinist the process of getting them had been, so when she had to, her supporters weren't too thrilled. Will they be "not thrilled" enough to affect the November election? Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has video of a couple of disgruntled Hillary supporters. Some reports said that there weren't that many protesters present--less than 500, even when you put the Obama supporters and Hillary supporters together. Are these enough to affect anything? Do they speak for even more people? Will Hillary take it to the convention?

Although Hillary and her supporters are still making plenty of noise, I'm not sure they're really affecting anything anymore. Apparently the new number of delegates necessary is 2118, and Obama's not far from that. The Puerto Rico primary is tomorrow (actually, looking at the clock, today.) The last primaries are on Tuesday in South Dakota and Montana. I suspect things will calm down once everybody gets used to the idea that it didn't work out for Hillary, but it'll be interesting to see whether a contingent of McCain Democrats develops.

[UPDATE--Whoops! I've fixed a link above to one of Jane Hamsher's videos that I somehow got wrong at 4:00 in the morning (here it is again in case you don't want to dig it out of the post). This one has a Hillary supporter vowing to vote for McCain in November, which is pretty much the entire justification for the "McCain Democrats" comment at the end. What an inauspicious start for my first post linked by Pajamas Media.]